(Written by David Holmes)
With the advent of the new LEGO Mindstorms EV3, LEGO is pushing to get more of its products in the classroom to be used as a tool for learning core concepts. This article is dedicated to exploring the options and resources teachers and instructors have using LEGO as a teaching medium. First we will go through the various curricula offered; each of these lesson-plans details day-to-day activities that demonstrate core competencies in the classroom with LEGO. Then the free resources available for teachers are explained. So let’s get started! 🙂
➡ LEGO EDUCATION – Of course LEGO Education has a big presence with its product offerings. Currently they offer two main curricula; developed for LEGO WeDo and LEGO Mindstorms. Their LEGO WeDo activity-pack details 12 themed lessons and provides 24 hours of instruction. See LEGO Education website for more.
With LEGO Mindstorms the product-line differentiates quite a bit. A very popular program is the ROBOTC Curriculum for LEGO Mindstorms Education with Tetrix. In over 300 pages it details how to teach students ROBOTC and program LEGO Mindstorms with it, how to build robots to solve engineering challenges, and how to incorporate engineering concepts into every lesson. At $350 dollars though, the price is steep.
LEGO Education also offers a themed lesson-plan called the Green City Activity Pack. This is not a full curriculum but instead sets out various challenges to be completed on a game-board that teaches students about sustainable energy. Because the material does not go as in depth as the ROBOTC curriculum and there are less activities, this is a cheaper option selling for $150. However, if you buy the game-board and all the LEGO pieces needed to make the obstacles and challenges the price quickly goes back up.
➡ CARNEGIE MELLON ROBOTICS ACADEMY – Carnegie Mellon has also developed curricula for using LEGO Mindstorms in the classroom. They offer one line of curricula called Robotics Engineering Volume 1 followed by Robotics Engineering Volume 2 and Robotics Engineering Home School. Each of these provide 12 in-depth research-projects designed to teach students different STEM concepts. The price of Robotics Engineering Volume 1 and Volume 2 is individually $269.95 – making it expensive for teachers who are just starting. However the Robotics Engineering Home School curriculum provides a cheaper option at only $59.99 . It is important to note that the Home School curriculum is only licensed for home school use, which means most teachers will have to go with the classroom license only offered with the Robotics Engineering Volume 1 & 2 curriculums.
➡ ROBOTICS CURRICULUMS – For alternative and cheaper options, there are a number of 3rd party businesses which offer comprehensive lesson-plans for teaching with LEGO. Robotics Curriculums offers 2 major curriculums which cover LEGO Mindstorms and LEGO WeDo separately. From their product description page, the LEGO Mindstorms curriculum covers 5 different builds and provides everything needed to teach them; including estimated time of completion, technical concepts to teach with each robot, and assorted programming challenges to teach kids programming concepts. At only $125 it is an inexpensive way for teachers to get started using LEGO Mindstorms. For younger kids, the LEGO WeDo curriculum offers 5 different builds using the LEGO WeDo kit, with instructions on setting up different themes for each project and how to incorporate STEM concepts into the lesson. Each curriculum comes with a detailed explanation of the programming environment along with all of the building instructions you will need. Also included is a guarantee of a full refund if you are unsatisfied – a promise that the other products lack. Learn more at: roboticscurriculums.com. (UPDATE: this website no longer exists.)
Compared to the paid LEGO lesson-plans, the free resources for teaching with LEGO are surprisingly scarce. Outside of LEGO Education there are a couple of small blogs and free e-books offering lesson-plans.
➡ LEGO ENGINEERING – This is a blog sponsored by LEGO Education and Tufts University. It offers detailed resources on teaching students tasks such as line following and driving a robot around a square. The website does not however offer a lot of variety. Learn more here.
➡ OTHER BLOGS & EBOOKS – One problem with most of the free lesson-plans is that they are either not detailed enough to be especially helpful in the classroom, or they do not cover enough topics to provide a variety of materials for teachers. As you look over blogs covering lesson-plans you can see this problem in full force, so there is plenty of room for improvement here if someone is interested.
I hope this helped you get an overall picture of what is available for using LEGO in educational settings. If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment section below. Also, if you are aware of other useful resources for teachers and students in regards to using LEGO in an educational setting, please share them as well. Thanks! 😉
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